Leasehold Reforms Easing Enfranchisement Hostility

A leading specialist in leasehold enfranchisement has claimed current leasehold legislation is to blame for attributing to disputes and hostility between leaseholders and freeholders during the enfranchisement process. 

The current system, especially involving restrictive deadlines for extensions has been seen as exacerbating issues and reducing the opportunities for ‘open dialogue’ between stakeholders. 

The Law Commission is set to publish a report in February promoting reforms to the current system which would make the process of buying the freehold title a lot simpler, cheaper, quicker and fairer.  

Nicola Muir, Barrister at Tanfield Chambers and member of Association of Leasehold Enfranchisement Practitioners (ALEP), said:  

“The current system creates an adversarial environment, whereas what we need is less of the ‘us vs. them’ mentality.  It’s the outmoded enfranchisement process – not the individuals involved – that leads to disputes. Instead what we need is scope for more negotiation, open dialogue and process-led interactions.   

“If a tenant misses a deadline in the process, the right to an extended lease is lost and a new claim can’t be made for a further year. If the landlord misses a deadline, they may have to accept a low or unfair price for their interest.      

“This leads to artificial arguments about the validity of notices and methods of service.  By allowing the Courts and Tribunals to take a more holistic approach which focuses on whether the tenant is actually entitled to a new lease rather than on whether they jumped through the necessary procedural hoops, the proposed new system should be easier, cheaper and quicker to operate. 

“The Law Commission proposes doing away with some of the existing draconian sanctions for both leaseholder and freeholder if key deadlines are missed during the statutory process. The new regime would be more flexible and would give the First Tier Tribunal a much wider jurisdiction to deal with the whole gamut of disputes which can arise in enfranchisement claims.   

“It remains to be seen whether the Law Commission’s proposals become law, but they have generally been well received. There is no doubt that a more flexible procedure would open the door to more cases being settled amicably and the scope for disagreements being reduced. In the meantime, landlords and tenants should always try and reach terms within the statutory deadlines.” 

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